Obama Deficit-Reduction Plan Would Allow Federal Debt Collectors To Contact People On Their Cellphones
WASHINGTON — President Obama isn’t leaving a single couch cushion unturned in his effort to lower the deficit. A new proposal by the White House would allow collectors pursuing a government-backed debt — which includes most mortgages, unpaid taxes and federal loans — to contact people via their cellphones, in an effort to secure every last nickel and dime from taxpayers.
On page 28 of the president’s deficit-reduction plan released Monday, federal agencies would be allowed to call people’s cellphones to collect debts — an attempt to reach the increasing number of Americans who are ditching landlines for mobile phones:
Kenneth Baer, spokesman for the Office of Management and Budget, said there would be no intrusion into people’s cellphones.
“This proposal merely reflects the fact that more and more people rely solely on a mobile phone for their voice communications, and allows debt collectors to call them on these numbers,” he said.
Debt collection, however, is a touchy subject, and one that typically leads to a high number of complaints on the Federal Trade Commission’s website.
Tena Friery is research director at the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting the privacy of American consumers. She said that if the new regulations are not written correctly, there could be the “potential for a lot of abuse,” such as calls accidentally going to people’s employers or relatives.
“One of the common problems we hear regarding debt collectors is that the debt collector is calling the wrong number,” she said. “Cellphone numbers tend to change more than landline numbers, as people move from place to place or plan to plan. This can be quite annoying for people to receive repeated calls from a debt collector about a debt that’s not even theirs, about someone they don’t even know.”